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Tents accommodate Fashion Week

April 1st, 2009 / By: / Project Briefs

Fashion Week El Paseo keeps organizers on the move.

Approaching its fourth iteration in March, Fashion Week El Paseo comprises a series of fashion, beauty and interior design events in a tented structure along an upscale shopping boulevard in Palm Desert, Calif.

“The tent needs to accommodate a maximum of 500 people seated, plus the runway, stage, backstage, a press box, A/V equipment and an area for catering,” says Michael Mathews, marketing director of Palm Springs Life magazine, which presents Fashion Week. More than that, “We change the configuration of the events most every night,” he notes. “For example, Monday night’s event is a very familiar kind of thing; people sit and drink … as opposed to a straight fashion show.”

Configurations include 60-inch tables for a luncheon, 36-inch tables for cocktail receptions and rows of seats for runway shows.

The main structure is a 25-by-35-meter tent, connected to a 15-by-40-foot tent, connected in turn to a 40-by-60-foot tent. Smaller tents provide work areas for caterers and “office” staff.

“The reason for the mid-tent is to accommodate two palm trees on that lot,” explains Bob Binns, operations manager for A Rental Connection of Los Angeles, which supplies not only the tents but also tables, chairs, china, garment racks, mirrors, backstage lighting and many other needs.

The backstage, created by a freestanding fabric wall, “really needs a lot of space,” says Palm Springs Life’s Fashion Editor Susan Stein, ticking off needs: food, makeup and hair stations, mirrors, and one rolling garment rack per model. “Not only do you have your models, but also dressers and production people,” she adds. The backstage also needs its own entrance for models and clothes.

The challenges for changing the configurations are twofold: “Every show that we do has a different image,” Stein says. “Our designers say, ‘I don’t want my show to look like all the others.” The 2009 featured designer requested the runway be lowered from 30 inches to 8-10 inches. Stein worries about people in back rows having a clear line of sight. Risers are out of the question because some events require tables. “We have had a 30-inch runway because it’s very good for people to see. We are a consumer-driven event,” as opposed to a photo-op event, she notes.

The other half of the challenge is changing setups quickly. After the opening day’s hair-styling event in the “ante-tent,” salon stations with electricity for blow dryers must be cleared for a late-afternoon cocktail party preceding the fashion show.

“We have a standby crew there 24 hours a day for the whole week,” Binns says. The aspect of Fashion Week that requires additional consideration on the part of his company is this: “We have to consider more the finished look, as opposed to a fundraiser or corporate event. The tent needs to be fashionable as well.”

Janice Kleinschmidt is a freelance writer based in Palm Springs, Calif.

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